What sets your soul ablaze? Do you even know? Have you spent purposeful time thinking about it or are you too tired with the daily demands of your life to even ponder such a topic? Is our purpose here on earth to live, pay bills, and die? What are you really good at… does that line up with what interests you? Are you afraid of change? If so, why? What do you really, I mean really, want in this life? What is important to you? Not your friends or family, YOU.
These questions have been floating around in my mind this week as I have been helping my mom recently with exploring the possibility of a new career path. She has been at her current job for 38 years. Thirty-eight years at the same employer. Not long ago, this was a common occurrence. Nowadays, you would be hard pressed to find someone in my generation that has stayed with the same employer (even if promoted or serving in various roles throughout their time there) for more than several years in a row.
Daily life has changed in the past 38 years for her, technology has changed, and now she is faced with the often scary possibility of change, of choosing a different path. Though not sure if she is going to make the leap yet or not, my mom is now bravely exploring these new opportunities that she has not entertained for years and I am so damn proud of her that I could cry. I literally felt like she was my child today as I waited to hear back after her first interviews in decades. I prayed for her to be successful, that these events would boost her confidence and that whether or not she accepted the positions, that she would catch a glimpse of what could be instead of what has always been. Retirement might allow new beginnings for her now.
There is certainly something noble in sticking with a job to support your family in the best way you can, finding joy in the little things that you like about your career and learning to handle the not so great. It builds character and persistence. You learn to deal with your circumstances and stick with something for the long haul… commitment. We grew up not wanting for much, enjoying the extras like sports and family vacations. We had a warm, full Christmas each year and even intermittent financial help as adults. What parent wouldn’t want to provide that for their children? We were also very lucky to have a young grandma who provided childcare for us and was like a second mom while our mother worked her butt off six days a week to give us this amazing life. She made smart decisions that paved the way for all that she has built up until the present day. But.
As time goes on and we grow older, there comes a wisdom as we learn that time is not infinite. We lose loved ones and age, we come to examine our choices and consequences. We take stock of our lives as they are, no longer a vast river of endless possibility flowing out in front of us, but eventually narrowing into smaller streams of choice and more limited (though not unattainable) opportunities.
Time is a gift, the most important of gifts. Life is short. Whether you are old, young, or somewhere in between, I urge you to take some time here and there to assess where you are and what you want to do with your time. If you feel stuck, think about why that is. What is your ultimate goal? You will never reach that huge goal with huge leaps; a big goal must be broken into baby steps and slowly carved out. I am not just talking career here, either. I am talking life. Do you want a spouse? A child? A degree? Financial security? Greater health? Close friendships? What can you do to work towards that goal today? How about tomorrow? I am a big believer in having goals. Make sure the steps you have towards achieving those goals are small and attainable, as well as measurable.
Whether you plan for it or not, time moves on, with or without your examination, with or without your consent. It is so easy to get caught in the daily grind, I have been there and felt trapped. I have felt the pull of change and often pushed it away. Other times I have taken a leap of faith and jumped hungrily towards a new goal or dream, grasping at my lifelines for support in total terror and fear of failure. Sometimes I have fallen hard on my knees, other times I have risen to the challenges and felt incredibly proud of my effort. The outcome will differ with each challenge, but I will tell you this is what I know:
Refuse to be disheartened by the failures. Choose to keep evolving and changing as life changes. Continually push yourself to accept change as the only constant, to frequently re-examine and check in with yourself and your needs vs. wants. While I respect my mom and her career choices, I also have taken chances that have led me to a job I love working from home training other nurses. I see my kids more and have a better work-life balance. This would not have happened for me had I stayed stagnant in my little boat and been afraid of the raging current.
The purpose of this post is to just get you thinking about where you are, what you want, and start planning a route to get to your ultimate destination. Because guess what? We all share the same ending, it is the middle part that we can and should consider, taking control of it while we still have the time. There are plenty of self help books out there to get you started, plenty to look at on the internet to motivate you. However you get through your journey, life is going to keep coming.
It is okay to not know what your passions are, to feel lost. It is okay to try new things and fail, to explore the world around you and try on different ideas until one “fits” with your style. Will you examine your life and work towards your own satisfaction, taking the steps to get you where you would like to be? Or will you let life happen TO you, accepting whatever fate happens to befall you? The choice is ultimately yours and yours alone. Think it over.